Hello dear readers! The Writing Wizard is back with a few quick tips to help you prepare for the last few weeks before test day for your SAT-I and SAT-II Subject Exams.
If you have been reading this excellent blog, then you know that other posts from April and May have been providing dynamite advice on how to structure your testing schedule week by week, how to tackle particular kinds of problems, and what to do on testing day to maximize comfort and minimize stress. In this post, however, I want to provide you with a few pointers about what to do in the crucial run-up to test day, the last three weeks or so before you sit for the test. So, read carefully, and enjoy!
1. Focus on the hardest stuff first.
As an SAT tutor, one of the biggest elements in test preparation is isolating the particular problem areas that each test-taker has. For some folks, fractions questions or trigonometry are the banes of their existence but reading comprehension is a breeze. For others, it’s the other way around… If you have been keeping track of the kinds of questions that have been giving you the most trouble throughout your test prep process, the last few weeks of your schedule are a great time to bring a heightened attention to these sorts of problems. Set aside a block of time each day to drill these problems, work through the answers methodically, reviewing the structure and the language of the questions, etc. Expose yourself to these problems consistently and you will ultimately learn their tricks. The sooner you’ve accomplished that, the sooner you’ll be able to crack these questions quickly and efficiently.
2. Train your body for the test.
Many students take sample full-length tests in advance of the test date to prepare their minds for the exertion that the test will surely bring. But students often forget to prepare their bodies for the fatigue that goes along with test taking. If your test is on a Saturday morning at 8:30 AM in a school classroom but you have been preparing your sample tests in your coziest chair in your living room at noon on Sunday, you are not giving your body or your mind similar conditions to test day. This can be a real problem for students who have not taken into account all of the small ways that discomfort, stress, noise, etc. can chip away at their ability to focus and perform well. In the last few weeks, try to recreate the conditions of test day as much as possible. Find a public place with some noise but not too much, and begin and end your testing at the same times as on the real test day. Try to get as much sleep as you anticipate getting on the real day as well. If you train your body in advance to manage the ambient conditions of the real testing environment, your test practice will be better preparation for the challenges that real test day will bring.
3. Take three in a row.
People have very varied opinions about how much test prep is too much. Obviously you want to know every type of question that will be thrown at you, but you don’t want to be taking SAT practice tests every weekend for a year. Regardless of how many previous full-length tests you have taken throughout the diagnostic and preparation phases, I always recommend to students to block off the last month of their process and take one full-length test a week for the three weeks prior to test day, on the same calendar day at the same time as the real test. What this means, of course, is that the real test will be the fourth test in a row, closing out the month and concluding the test prep process. Now, most students are not, shall we say, overly enthusiastic about waking up early four Saturdays in a row and grinding through a full SAT before lunch. But this is precisely what will train your body and mind to tackle the test with ease. The test becomes easier with practice, and practice means exposure – not only to different types of questions and formats, but also to the physical demands of the test (see my second point, above). If the real test is the fourth in a row, taking an SAT will seem normal to your mind and body…maybe even natural. It won’t be a shock to the system, because you’ll already feel comfortable using your brain in a demanding way at an early hour on a weekend. And if you’re feeling comfortable, you’ll perform well, avoiding burnout, stress, and fatigue. So, block off that last month, and learn to love the test.
These are just a few things to keep in mind as you finish off your standardized test preparation and gear up for your testing dates. Check back for more tips and tricks on the blog in the next few weeks, and as always, enjoy!